Here is an extensive survey by Smashwords for you indie / self-published authors out there. It is about the best practices of bestselling authors. Personally I chose to publish Nephilim Quest directly on Amazon and Payhip, and use Smashwords for the rest of the e-book stores. Very easy.
2016 Smashwords Survey Reveals Insight into the Habits of Bestselling Authors
I have been thinking how great it would be to have a treadmill-table and a laptop. That way it would be possible to get exercise while I write.
Well, there’s no space for the treadmill table. And I don’t have a laptop. (i have been drooling over one at the local Mac store, but so far the price has been too much for me… I wonder how long they will allow me to enter the store anymore. “Oh no, here she comes again!”)
We’ve all heard that sitting still for long periods of time is hazardous to your health. So, when I write I most often simply forget about time. And then after two-three hours I notice my shoulders are aching and my back is stiff.
I tried all sorts of timers on the computer to remind me to get off the chair. The problem was I forgot about them when I had my Scrivener screen in front of me in full screen mode. Also I do not like timers that give a sound alarm when the time is up. When I have forgotten myself into a story, any sudden noise simply scares the bejeebies out of me (the same when I am reading a good book).
So I needed something to remind me to get off the chair and move about. And that something could not be a timer in my computer. Also a watch on the table did not feel like the right option.
Instead I got these two hourglasses. The bigger one is for 45 minutes, and the smaller one for 15 minutes. I have the bigger one right next to my computer screen. When all the sand has trickled to the lower bulb and the 45 minutes are up, I immediately notice it. I get up, and turn the 15 minute hour glass around. And for that 15 minutes I go about the home and arrange things. I’ve been cleaning my kitchen cupboards, vacuuming, dusting… And it actually doesn’t feel like a chore at all. (And that is a lot coming from my mouth – yours truly and the vacuum cleaner have never been the best of friends).
I’m sitting here wondering have I actually found a way to a) not sit still for too long periods of time and b) to clean the home in a way that feels like fun. So far, a few weeks into the method I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself for coming up with it.
I’ve been asked when will the next part of the Nephilim Quest come out. Well – as soon as I get the plot planned and transferred into a timeline and from there into chapter plans. Only then shall I start writing. Still, when the plot is planned beforehand, the writing itself doesn’t necessarily take very long.
Just to show you the first step in planning: I have collected all the things that need to be addressed in the next book into a mind map (using Scapple). Here is the photo of part of it. (Yes, only a part). The cells are connected with dozens of arrows, showing which characters are affected by which events. I calculated this took me about 20 hours to make (and I already had many notes done before, never calculated how many hours they took before I decided to do a mind map)- collecting the details from the first book that need to be written about in the next book.
776 notes in all – ready to be transferred to the timeline which I will then turn into chapters.
I think this shows you cannot really just write whatever comes to your mind if you are writing a series. Planning is the key… And writing is a lot of work – satisfying, fun, demanding work.
And here’s the pic (sorry, it is blurry for a purpose – don’t want to reveal too much of the coming book yet)
As it is I have a day job and try to find time for my writing work in the evenings and weekends.
Most days I don’t have a chance to write uninterrupted for longer periods of time, and I have noticed that if I wait until I have a whole hour to spend, I won’t get much writing done. (But when I do find a longer period of time to use, I so enjoy those delicious hours when I can simply concentrate on writing)
I wrote my first book (Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter) mostly in fifteen minute spurts. Where ever I could steal fifteen minutes or more. Some say that at least half an hour is necessary to write, but it seems my mind is such that I can write a short while, maybe even a few sentences, and then do something completely different, and return to the story even hours later and write a little more – without losing track where I was in the story. Maybe that is something women have learned to do in their ordinary life. Multitasking, if you will.Embed from Getty Images
While writing the book I was at the same time writing my final essay for the Egyptology studies at the University of Manchester. That was something I really had to concentrate on and sometimes I felt that my brains were in a knot with all the information in front of me I would need to condence into a logical presentation.
That is the moment when I changed to writing the novel. My poor brains, trying to make a sense of a dozen books and tons of notes about Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia, sighed with relief. Really. It was like going to a mini holiday – spending a few minutes writing out of my imagination. After a short free writing spurt like this I found it much easier to return to the academic writing.
Maybe this the reason I wrote the book so fast… It took me two months to write the first draft. Then I spent two months fattenig the story up, if you will, as the first draft is always rather.. erm… skeleton-like. During this second round of writing I had more time in my hands, having finished the essay so I could enjoy longer periods of writing time. (The editing time after this took over a year – I had not set any deadline to it and enjoyed seeing the story come to life as a result of careful editing.)
Writing like this taught me the value of even fifteen minutes of free time. On a coffee break. Before making dinner. While waiting for something (be it a doctor’s appointment or waiting for friends to arrive to dinner – I love to have friends over to eat). Using a notebook, tablet or phone. Just a few sentences. They do add up.
Also I use a dictation app on my computer. It takes a short while to get used to dictating your story – you have to “see” the story in your mind while you speak it, but it certainly makes writing the first draft a lot faster. And I feel it also makes your story flow better right from the start – at least if you have the tendency to return to what you have just written and tweak tweak tweak… (I’m one of those people) You may tweak your story to death if you don’t give it first free rein to run from start to finish first – you may simply get bored with your story when it doesn’t seem to proceed. A little editing is ok, but don’t try to make your text perfect right from the start.
If my memory serves me right I remember reading that we speak five times faster than we write. So if you don’t have much time in your hands, you might try dictating your story. It seems many established authors are beginning to dictate their stories because of the speed.
For full time authors writing time is easier to arrange, but for those of us who have a day job, using every opportunity to write even a little is important. If you are on a deadline, it is important to plan as much as you can on your calendar – how many words do you need to write per day, when should editing start, when the whole story should be ready. Well planned is half done, as the saying goes.
Is it stressful, using your short free moments to write? Well, I don’t find it to be so. After all if writing is a passion, it does not feel like a chore. (And if it does begin to feel like that – take a break. Really. Let your mind have a rest, it does need it once in while.)
So if you have a laptop or tablet, take it with you and write during your child’s hobby lessons. Or carry a notebook with you and scribble a few words down while sitting in a bus. Use a dictation app on your phone and talk while you walk (no one sees that as odd anymore – they just think you are speaking on the phone). Cut down the TV-time if you are serious about your writing. (I think TV is one the biggest time robbers there is).Embed from Getty Images
If you cannot write but have free time, then go through the plot of your book in your mind. Imagine you are explaining it to a stranger. What your characters are doing and why. What motivates them? Who is the antagonist? What motivates him/her? I just did that this morning while preparing to go to work, and telling the plot of a story in real sentences to myself suddenly solved the end result of the story I am currently writing. (No, not the Nephilim Quest sequel – I still have some planning to do on that one. This is a story I made a very crude plan of at first and am just writing a thousand words a day – keeping my writing skills alive while I prepare for the next part of Nephilim Quest.)
So, be it fifteen minutes, half an hour or a while lucxurious hour – the important thing is to keep on writing.
I decided to finally start the interview pages I had intended to do for months now. All my time went into learning how to self-publish my first book so this had to wait.
But now I had the time to finally begin. As the first person to interview I chose my editor, Miriam Bibby.
I had read about the importance of an editor all the while I concentrated on writing my book and then doing the first edit myself. So on a theoretical level I knew it would be important to have a professional editor.
Then, one day I sat there, having done the first round of edits, and knew this was the moment. Whom should I choose? Where could I find an editor who would be professional, whom I could trust? At the moment I was not a member of ALLi yet so I had no professional organisation to turn to for advice (The Alliance of Independent Authors, if you wish to know more, click on the logo on the right ride of the page).
And then I suddenly knew whom to ask for the task. Miriam Bibby! I had “met” her (via internet) during my Egyptology studies at the University of Manchester. She was a published author and had an excellent command of English. She had done editing jobs.
As I had nothing to lose, I wrote to Miriam and asked if she would be kind enough to help me. I knew she was busy with her horses and writing her own books, but I was lucky – she agreed to work on my book.
And this is when I really understood how a good editor can make a book better… No, how a good editor can make a book. Period.
I had planned my story line, generally speaking. But then new characters just jumped in without asking me, and the story began to write itself into unplanned directions. As a result the first draft was a bit of a muddle. Two wonderful people had read the first draft and encouraged me enough to believe that people would really want to read my book. But it needed developing.
And oh boy did we develop it… Miriam made me re-write, change the order of chapters, write more, introduce many of the characters much earlier in the story than I had originally done. Her comments were right on target and I knew I was working with someone whose passion was the story itself, who wanted to make it shine.
It was a lot of work, but I had decided I would do whatever necessary to make the story the best it could be. We emailed chapters to each other, commented, tweaked, deleted, rewrote… And on 31st of January this year Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter was published. (By clicking on the link above you can read the first 25 chapters – what better place to check the quality of the writing and editing.)
The whole pre-publication process of a book was a completely new experience to me. But oh boy was I the luckiest wannabe author out there when I found Miriam to work with me. I understand now what an inseparable team an author and her editor are – yet many people forget the role of the editor when they read a book. No first draft is good. It can be pretty horrible, actually. Refining it into a good novel doesn’t happen automatically. It is a lot of work, sometimes quite painful work when you have to “kill” the words you were so proud of in the beginning. But making the book the best it can be doesn’t happen without an editor. I now have the greatest respect for these “invisible” professionals to whom we and our books owe so much.
Here is Miriam’s interview page for you to read. If you need an editor, I sincerely recommend her. I only ask you won’t take all her time – I need her for my future books!
Heehee – This is a good one… There has been a lot of discussion in the author circles about Amazon alerting people that there are faults in a given book – the so-called quality control initiative. Authors have been wondering if this means that in case of a typo you’ll be getting the warning label on your book’s page which will then scare your buyers off. As often is the case people may have been overreacting slightly…
John Doppler created this hilarious picture: what kinds of warning labels you can expect to see… (Follow this link to John’s excellent writing site)
Ok, so some people who have read my book Shadowhunter asked how I came up with the idea of the buffer zone around our world, and interacting with the “other side” through dreams. Not to mention life continuing after death.
Well, I have often seen precognitive dreams and even received information on how to do things – information I did not have read about before.
For example if I see a dream where fish or seals are swimming in the air, I know someone is about to make their transition from this physical existence. I have seen beforehand events that happened the next day – the exact place and event, even though everything was a mirror image.
And once I had a dream where I walked in a forest and came to a little hut. I knocked on the door and an old man opened it. He welcomed me in and said he would now show me a special painting technique. He showed me a black and white painting he had made, and then how he layered thin layers of color on top of it, bringing it to life with vibrant colors. I tried to technique the next morning with a horse painting I was working on in acrylics, and to my surprise it worked perfectly. Only later did I learn the very technique is called the grisaille- technique. I had never heard of it before.
People who have died often come to my dreams, and the fun thing is that they are younger and more vibrant every time they appear. The encounters are brief, but I always feel good after such a dream.Embed from Getty Images
When I was younger I studied interpretation and translation at the university, and by accident ended up doing interpretation in a rather surprising environment – an English medium had arrived to where I live, to give a public demonstration, and the lady who was supposed to interpret for her caught the flu and had no voice. Someone knew me and asked if I could help them out. Well, I have to admit I was pretty curious about mediums, and so I agreed.
I was expecting a dim-lit room with a skull and a crystal ball and the medium wearing a turban, but instead I found myself in an ordinary lecture theater with a completely normal looking lady and ordinary people filling every seat. The medium began to talk and deliver messages from the “dead”, and I was totally surprised on how exact the messages were.
I interpreted for her and other mediums as well a few times, and they did not fish for information. Actually they told the clients were not to tell them anything, it was their job to deliver the information. I also got a message from someone I had known and the medium told the exact way this person had died. There was no way she could have known this beforehand. And all the messages from the “other side” were loving and encouraging, never dictating what the one still living here was supposed to do with their lives. The messages emphasized the fact that we are to make out own decisions in life. And that life continues after the doorway of death, and those who have already walked through it are still obseving our lives, and loving us.
So, these kind of experiences from my own life had an impact on Shadowhunter when the story began to form in my mind years back, and so this story has a buffer zone where the dearly departed can come to interact with us, and where dreams can be used for these interactions. The actual visiting this buffer zone in physical form is all imagination, though.
How can I explain a passion I’ve always had?
I have been writing stories since I learned to write, and I intend to continue as long as I can hold the pen / tap the keyboard (or whatever form writing takes in the future).
My fascination for books and writing rises from how a well written story takes the reader to another world, gives them a safe environment to feel deep emotions, and maybe makes them look at the world around them with new eyes.
And written words leave space for the imagination to fill in the gaps – the story can be different at each reading.
Also it is amazing how the written word connects people across the ages… In my Egyptology studies I read texts that were thousands of years old, and still felt a connection to the writers – their hopes, dreams, beliefs and emotions. Writing must be the most magical thing the human kind ever invented… I want that magic to continue.
Maybe one day in the future someone reads my books, finds my values and thoughts hidden in the story, and feels a connection to me. That magical touch or words and emotions through the years between people who have never met.
Yes, that is why I write.